The Heart of John
Paul II - World Youth Day
Message of the Holy
Father John Paul II
To the Youth of the World
On the Occasion of the 20th World Youth Day
Cologne, Aug. 2004
"We have come
to worship him" (Mt 2:2)
My dear young people!
1. This year we have celebrated the 19th World Youth Day, meditating
on the desire expressed by some Greeks who had gone to Jerusalem for
the Passover: "We wish to see Jesus" (Jn 12:21). And here we are
now, making our way to Cologne where, in August 2005, the 20th World
Youth Day is to be celebrated.
"We have come to worship him" (Mt 2:2): this is the theme of the
next World Youth Day. It is a theme that enables young people from
every continent to follow in spirit the path taken by the Magi whose
relics, according to a pious tradition, are venerated in this very
city, and to meet, as they did, the Messiah of all nations.
It is true to say that the light of Christ had already opened the
minds and the hearts of the Magi. "They went their way" (Mt 2:9),
says the Evangelist, setting out boldly along unknown paths on a
long, and by no means easy, journey. They did not hesitate to leave
everything behind in order to follow the star that they had seen in
the East (cf Mt 2:2). Imitating the Magi, you young people are also
making preparations to set out on a "journey" from every region of
the world to go to Cologne. It is important for you not only to
concern yourselves with the practical arrangements for World Youth
Day, but first of all you must carefully prepare yourselves
spiritually, in an atmosphere of faith and listening to the Word of
2. "And the star... went before them, till it came to rest over the
place where the child was" (Mt 2:9). The Magi reached Bethlehem
because they had obediently allowed themselves to be guided by the
star. Indeed, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly
with great joy" (Mt 2:10). It is important, my dear friends, to
learn to observe the signs with which God is calling us and guiding
us. When we are conscious of being led by Him, our heart experiences
authentic and deep joy as well as a powerful desire to meet Him and
a persevering strength to follow Him obediently.
"And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother"
(Mt 2:11). There is nothing extraordinary about this at first sight.
Yet that Child was different from any other: He is the only Son of
God, yet He emptied Himself of His glory (cf Phil 2:7) and came to
earth to die on the Cross. He came down among us and became poor in
order to reveal to us His divine glory, which we shall contemplate
fully in heaven, our blessed home.
Who could have invented a greater sign of love? We are left in awe
before the mystery of a God who lowered himself to take on our human
condition, to the point of giving His life for us on the Cross (cf
Phil 2:6-8). In His poverty, - as Saint Paul reminds us - "though he
was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty
you might become rich" (2 Cor 8:9), and came to offer salvation to
sinners. How can we give thanks to God for such magnanimous
3. The Magi found Jesus at "BÍth-lehem" which means "house of
bread". In the humble stable in Bethlehem on some straw lay the
"grain of wheat" who, by dying, would bring forth "much fruit" (cf
Jn 12:24). When speaking of Himself and His saving mission in the
course of His public life, Jesus would later use the image of bread.
He would say "I am the bread of life", "I am the bread which came
down from heaven", "the bread that I shall give for the life of the
world is my flesh". (Jn 6: 35.41.51).
Faithfully pursuing the path of our Redeemer from the poverty of the
Crib to His abandonment on the Cross we can better understand the
mystery of His love which redeems humanity. The Child, laid by Mary
in the manger, is the Man-God we shall see nailed to the Cross. The
same Redeemer is present in the sacrament of the Eucharist. In the
stable at Bethlehem He allowed himself to be worshipped under the
humble outward appearances of a newborn baby, by Mary, by Joseph and
by the shepherds; in the consecrated Host we adore Him sacramentally
present in his body, blood, soul and godhead, and He offers himself
to us as the food of eternal life. The Mass then becomes a truly
loving encounter with the One who gave himself wholly for us. Do not
hesitate, my dear young friends, to respond to Him when He invites
you "to the wedding feast of the Lamb (cf Rev 19:9). Listen to him,
prepare yourselves properly and draw close to the Sacrament of the
Altar, particularly in this Year of the Eucharist (October
2004-2005) which I have proclaimed for the whole Church.
4. "They fell down and worshipped Him" (Mt 2:11). While the Magi
acknowledged and worshipped the baby that Mary cradled in her arms
as the One awaited by the nations and foretold by prophets, today we
can also worship Him in the Eucharist, and acknowledge Him as our
Creator, our only Lord and Saviour.
"Opening their treasures they offered Him gifts, gold and
frankincense and myrrh" (Mt 2:11). The gifts that the Magi offered
the Messiah symbolised true worship. With gold, they emphasised His
Royal Godhead; with incense, they acknowledged Him as the priest of
the New Covenant; by offering Him myrrh, they celebrated the prophet
who would shed His own blood to reconcile humanity with the Father.
My dear young people, you too offer to the Lord the gold of your
lives, namely, your freedom to follow Him out of love, responding
faithfully to His call; let the incense of your fervent prayer rise
up to him, in praise of His glory; offer Him your myrrh, that is
your affection of total gratitude to Him, true Man, who loved us to
the point of dying as a criminal on Golgotha.
5. Be worshippers of the only true God, giving Him pride of place in
your lives! Idolatry is an ever-present temptation. Sadly, there are
those who seek the solution to their problems in religious practices
that are incompatible with the Christian faith. There is a strong
urge to believe in the facile myths of success and power; it is
dangerous to accept the fleeting ideas of the sacred which present
God in the form of cosmic energy, or in any other manner that is
inconsistent with Catholic teaching.
My dear young people, do not yield to false illusions and passing
fads which so frequently leave behind a tragic spiritual vacuum!
Reject the seduction of wealth, consumerism and the subtle violence
sometimes used by the mass media.
Worshipping the true God is an authentic act of resistance to all
forms of idolatry. Worship Christ: He is the Rock on which to build
your future and a world of greater justice and solidarity. Jesus is
the Prince of peace: the source of forgiveness and reconciliation,
who can make brothers and sisters of all the members of the human
6. "And they departed to their own country by another way" (Mt
2:12). The Gospel tells us that after their meeting with Christ, the
Magi returned home "by another way". This change of route can
symbolise the conversion to which all those who encounter Jesus are
called, in order to become the true worshippers that He desires (cf
Jn 4: 23-24). This entails imitating the way He acted by becoming,
as the apostle Paul writes, "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable
to God". The apostle then adds that we must not be conformed to the
mentality of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of our
minds, to "prove what is the will of God, what is good and
acceptable and perfect" (cf Rm 12: 1-2).
Listening to Christ and worshipping Him leads us to make courageous
choices, to take what are sometimes heroic decisions. Jesus is
demanding, because He wishes our genuine happiness. He calls some to
give up everything to follow Him in the priestly or consecrated
life. Those who hear this invitation must not be afraid to say "yes"
and to generously set about following Him as His disciples. But in
addition to vocations to special forms of consecration there is also
the specific vocation of all baptised Christians: that is also a
vocation to that "high standard" of ordinary Christian living which
is expressed in holiness (cf Novo Millennio Ineunte, 31). When we
meet Christ and accept His Gospel, life changes and we are driven to
communicate our experience to others.
There are so many of our contemporaries who do not yet know the love
of God or who are seeking to fill their hearts with trifling
substitutes. It is therefore urgently necessary for us to be
witnesses to love contemplated in Christ. The invitation to take
part in World Youth Day is also extended to you, dear friends, who
are not baptised or who do not identify with the Church. Are you not
perhaps yearning for the Absolute and in search of "something" to
give a meaning to your lives? Turn to Christ and you will not be let
7. Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new
evangelisation: men and women whose lives have been transformed by
meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating
this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called
to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. Many have
gone before us along this path of Gospel heroism, and I urge you to
turn often to them to pray for their intercession. By meeting in
Cologne you will learn to become better acquainted with some of
them, such as St Boniface, the apostle of Germany, the Saints of
Cologne, and in particular Ursula, Albert the Great, Teresa
Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and Blessed Adolph Kolping. Of
these I would like to specifically mention St Albert and Teresa
Benedicta of the Cross who, with the same interior attitude as the
Magi, were passionate seekers after the truth. They had no
hesitation in placing their intellectual abilities at the service of
the faith, thereby demonstrating that faith and reason are linked
and seek each other.
My dear young people as you move forward in spirit towards Cologne,
the pope will accompany you with his prayers. May Mary, "Eucharistic
woman" and Mother of Wisdom, support you along the way, enlighten
your decisions, and teach you to love what is true, good and
beautiful. May she lead you all to her Son, who alone can satisfy
the innermost yearnings of the human mind and heart.
Go with my blessing!
Castel Gandolfo, 6 August 2004
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